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The Readout Damian Garde

Is it time for Biogen to dump its Alzheimer’s partner?

Biogen’s eagerly awaited quarterly earnings call came and went without answering the existential questions facing the company’s work in Alzheimer’s disease. And, as Biogen perseverates, more and more investors and analysts are convinced the best path forward is getting out of the amyloid business altogether.

But that could be tricky. Biogen’s amyloid-targeting therapies — including the definitely failed aducanumab and the arguably failed BAN2401 — are partnered with the Japanese company Eisai. Under that partnership, Eisai can make decisions that Biogen is obliged to help pay for, and there’s already evidence that the two are not exactly on the same page.

What complicates matters is that the exact terms of the agreement aren’t public. There is presumably a breakup clause that would let Biogen bail, but it might come with a financial penalty.

The future of the Eisai relationship will remain the biggest question facing the company because, as Mizuho analyst Salim Syed put it, “investors generally want to know what the path forward is for Biogen in a post-aducanumab failure world and if the company plans on putting what is likely good money after bad.”

The need-to-know on BioMarin's gene therapy

Hemophilia, which results from a DNA defect, has long been one of the most attractive targets for gene therapy, which promises a one-time fix for inborn errors. But whether such a treatment can actually change patients' lives hinges on just how long it lasts.

That's the key question facing BioMarin, whose hemophilia A gene therapy has looked promising in early studies. As STAT's Adam Feuerstein points out, the company is soon to release data following patients for three years, and investors will be keenly watching how well the treatment holds up.

In prior studies, the gene therapy's efficacy seemed to wane over time, though not so much as to render it ineffective. If it plateaus at three years, as BioMarin expects, that's a good sign for its future as a product. But if the downward trend continues, BioMarin will have explaining to do.

Read More.

AbbVie's fight to replace Humira begins now

Come 2023, AbbVie is going to have a roughly $20 billion problem in the form of biosimilar competition to Humira, the drug that now accounts for more than half of its revenue.

Yesterday, the company completed step one of its contingency plan by winning FDA approval for a drug called Skyrizi. The injectable medicine is now cleared to treat psoriasis, which is one of Humira's many indications, and AbbVie believes it will eventually bring in $5 billion in sales each year.

But, as STAT's Ed Silverman reports, analysts are a little less sanguine. Skyrizi will compete in a crowded market, and at least some people who get it quit Humira to do so, cannibalizing AbbVie's return.

Read more.

Maybe copays are bad

That was the single consensus of a debate on drug pricing between a biotech CEO, an investor, and two policy experts. The whole idea behind copays is to limit wasteful spending by giving patients some financial responsibility for the care they receive, often referred to as “skin in the game.” 

But that might be a faulty premise.

“I get it for Botox. But when a patient has cancer, they have a ton of skin in the game,” said John Maraganore, the chief executive officer of Alnylam Pharmaceuticals. “And their physician, prescribing the medicine they ultimately take to treat their cancer, is someone who should not be thinking, ‘Gee, I might want to give them a different drug because it might be less expensive.’” 

Then he got into a lively debate with the think-tanker Avik Roy over why insurance is so expensive that invoked single-malt Yamazaki 18.

Read more.

More reads

  • Pfizer shareholder meeting offers an inside look at the pharma industry. (STAT)
  • ‘Pharma bro’ Martin Shkreli moved from federal prison after claim he was running drug company with banned cellphone. (CNBC)
  • A medical app uses your smartphone's camera to carry out lab tests at home. (MIT Tech Review)
  • FDA hires Pew director to lead regulatory policy. (STAT Plus)

Thanks for reading! Until tomorrow,


Thursday, April 25, 2019


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